3.8KM S W IM
It’s the shortest yet potentially the most scary part of any Ironman. So how should you ready yourself for the swim? Over to top Ironman racer Andy Blow…
Despite being the shortest section
of an Ironman by quite some margin, the 3.8km swim can actually be the most daunting aspect of the event for many long-distance newcomers, as well as for anyone whose athletic abilities are, shall we say, better suited to land-based pursuits.
To make your iron swim experience as smooth as possible, it’s important to consider the following points when picking what races to do and how you go about preparing for them. First, look at the body of water the swim is in. Lakes and, to a degree, rivers (both found at the Bastion) tend to offer calmer and more predictable conditions than you can get in the sea. So, if you’re really put off by the idea of getting a wave in the face, think very hard before signing up for a coastal race such as Ironman Wales. If you’re set on a sea swim race, then it’s a good idea to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Get plenty of practice swims in rough water during the build-up so you know you can definitely cope with it on race day. Just turning up and hoping it’ll be flat and calm isn’t a great idea…
Second, do some research to find out the kind of water temperature you’ll be faced with in the race you choose. Early-season events and most of those in the UK tend to be held in water that can be bracing, which can really add to the challenge. As with learning to cope with waves in the ocean, getting plenty of practice in water of a similar temperature is the best way to adapt body and mind to coping with the cold. A well-fitting wetsuit is also a must when the water is chilly, as anything baggy will allow cold water to flush through and make the experience miserable.
Third, take a good look at the course layout. Multi-lap courses (especially those with an ‘Aussie exit’ style run between laps as seen at Ironman UK, Ironman Wales and the UK Ultimate Triathlon) can be mentally easier as they offer a short
break at half way and naturally split the swim into two halves to be tackled separately. On the flip-side, a long single loop (see The Outlaw) or an out-and-back swim can be tough in terms of both navigation and holding your concentration. So prepare yourself for those with some longer non-stop simulation swims in training.
Overall the main message is that forewarned is forearmed when it comes to getting your mind and body ready for an Ironman swim. Prepare as specifically as you can for the exact demands of the course and the conditions, and with the realistic worst-case weather scenario in mind. Lean into the challenge rather than hoping it’ll all just be lovely on the day and you’ll get to the race confident and ready to get the job done, no matter what’s thrown at you.